Just under a year ago, Angry Metal Guy published a review of mine for the very first time, graciously allowing me to voice my shitty opinions on Revocation, an album which I still hold in great acclaim. Now that it’s October again, Revocation have somehow produced yet another LP, the much anticipated Deathless, allowing me to achieve an almost ridiculous convergence of events; my first revisit to an artist, coinciding with one year of writing, for one of the best bands on the planet. To the staff here at AMG, to Revocation, and of course to all of you reading, I owe great thanks for making this possible.
I was worried about this album. Revocation have had it too good for too long, releasing large quantities of absurdly excellent music with extreme consistency over a timespan that most other artists would take to write just one album. They’ve been cranking out yearly releases since their magnum opus Chaos of Forms in 2011. Yearly releases. For four years. The honeymoon has to end sometime, right? So when “Deathless” and “Madness Opus” started streaming, I was ready for the worst. They were completely unlike Chaos of Forms and Revocation; they seemed so much darker and simpler than anything before. Is this the end of the golden age? Has Davidson finally run out of steam?
Suffice it to say that underestimating Revocation is a dangerous game. With a few metaphorical toes now tickling my epiglottis, I’m delighted to report that Deathless isn’t just an addition to the canon, but a volley of fire and brimstone. It’s a shot in the dark crashing back down from the deep blue sky. Revocation have destroyed the mold that made them, retreating to their death thrash roots and coursing off in an unexplored direction from there. There are no banjos, no horn sections, no sudden interjections of strange prog experimentation, yet Deathless is full of personality, even if it takes a few listens to uncover.
As always, Revocation opens strong. “A Debt Owed to the Grave” shreds through four minutes of signature death thrash before ending with a brilliant crescendo under a harmonized lead that’s catchy enough to carry beyond its proclaimed environs. It’s some of the heaviest material this band has ever written, but it’s still packed with riffs that take weird twists and turns. Deathless as a whole sounds heavier than any other Revocation release; songs like the prog-death “Madness Opus” and the thrashier “Scorched Earth Policy” are dark and brutal in a way previous releases never were. “Madness Opus” and other songs like “Witch Trials” and “The Darkest Reaches” delve into a sort of romanticism that harkens back to Iron Maiden. They’re not disturbing or gristly, but spooky in a stylized way – Deathless could make a fitting death metal score to Hamlet or Frankenstein. Inky blackness opens wide here in a way death metal hasn’t really seen outside of early 2000s Opeth.
The learning curve for the album gets a bit less steep as it progresses, but the latter half is still packed with good songs with plenty of interest to offer. On “Apex,” the album’s token instrumental track, the band perform exceptionally and crank out some of the album’s best riffs, but closer “Witch Trials” overshadows it entirely. The riffing is unmistakable, the melodies punch holes into the album’s stormy skies, and solos spill through, casting light out onto the desolation that Deathless has so far subjected you to. Perhaps most importantly, it assures you that Revocation haven’t lost their touch. Though the ecstasy is buried and scuffed by brutality, the album retains that which makes this band so great. Deathless is still fun. Fun, but in a way your mother wouldn’t like, in a way that recalls Chaos of Forms without being as immediately gratifying or grinningly bombastic.
Deathless is unlike any Revocation album before it, retaining an unmistakable core identity while pushing the envelope further and in different dimensions than the band has ever gone before. Its greatest triumph is in how completely unpredictable it is – not in song structures, riffs, or even tonality, necessarily – but in unprecedented writing that continuously confounds. It’s a more stripped-down album, yet it’s arguably Revocation’s most progressive recording to date in that it absolutely refuses to succumb to convention. It doesn’t really fit in the discography of a band that doesn’t really fit in, but both are unmistakably great.